Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is in full damage-control mode as gun owners from across America are expressing outrage at the manner with which the WWP’s public relations director Leslie Coleman dismissively rejected an invitation for Wounded Warrior Project to appear on the nationally-syndicated Gun Talk Radio hosted by Tom Gresham on Veteran’s Day last weekend.
WWP reversed themselves earlier this week and sought a new invitation to appear on Gresham’s Gun Talk Radio, seeking to bring a wounded warrior to speak about the WWP organization, but Gresham declined that and told the WWP people that any appearances will be there solely to discuss WWP’s policies about media appearances.
We’ve been told by WWP staff and by published reports at the Examiner that the Executive Director of Wounded Warrior Project, Steven Nardizzi, will appear this Sunday on Gun Talk Radio. Gun Talk Radio can be heard on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Central time on more than 137 stations nationwide, on XM (Ch. 165) Satellite Radio or via live streaming over the internet.
The whole brouhaha began with Gresham inviting WWP to come onto his show in Veteran’s Day. In a series of emails back and forth, WWP’s director of public relations Leslie Coleman declined the invitation, and stated that, “you are correct that we decline the media opportunity. …WWP does not co-brand, create cause marketing campaigns or receive a percentage or a portion of proceeds from companies in which the product or message is sexual, political or religious in nature, or from alcohol or firearms companies.”
In a subsequent email, Ms. Coleman continued to dig herself in deeper, writing, “Our position regarding firearms and alcohol is in response to the struggles that many injured service members face with substance abuse and suicide and the roles those items often play in those issues.”
Literally the same day the email exchange was made public, Wounded Warrior began receiving the wrath of angry gun owners. Overnight, the situation went viral, endangering the entire Wounded Warrior operation.
WWP posted on Facebook late Wednesday a statement seeking to diffuse anger towards the organization.
We’ve had a lot of questions recently that started when we declined an opportunity to appear on Gun Talk Radio. We want to clarify and help answer some questions. We have seen through this process that the language on our website and our response to the invitation to appear on the show weren’t clear, and we are working on clarifying our approach. There is now much inaccurate information about WWP being anti-gun rights, an issue as an apolitical organization we do not take a stance on. We understand and appreciate that many of our Alumni are gun owners, and we facilitate multiple hunting and outdoor opportunities for our Wounded Warriors throughout the year.In the past, we made our logo available to appear on wide variety of products, including guns. As an organization, we owe it to our donors and constituents to maximize the return on investment of our dollars and brand. We are always looking at our business practices and whether we should continue with them in the future. In the case of cobranding, we’ve decided that we’re not going to offer our logo to appear on weapons anymore – whether they’re guns, knives, bows, swords, or any other type of weapon. There are still a few of the guns around for sale that had licensed our logo years ago, but there aren’t any new ones being made. This is purely a business decision based on a review of a return on investment, especially when compared with other types of cobranding ventures.
Regarding the question of donations and events, we do permit fundraisers that are shooting- and gun-related, such as gun raffles, shooting competitions, etc., and we’re incredibly appreciative of those who are willing to give their time to host or participate in an event. Likewise, we gratefully accept donations from companies and individuals connected with the gun industry.
As indicated above, we know that hunting and shooting sporting events can be very therapeutic for many of the Wounded Warriors we serve, and we’re happy to work with the community to make these types of events available to our Alumni. Hunting and shooting sport enthusiasts are an incredibly supportive and generous community, and we’ve been honored by how often folks have opened their land and homes, and volunteered their time to make these types of events possible for our Alumni. We’re so sorry if it seemed that we didn’t appreciate that support with our confusing communication of a business decision. It certainly wasn’t our intention!
I hope this post provides some clarity and helps answer some questions. We welcome the opportunity to have a warrior on Gun Talk Radio to discuss how hunting or events of the like have supported their recovery. We responded too quickly to his request and should have delved a bit deeper.
Guns Save Life attempted to contact Leslie Coleman in order to clarify her position. Messages left Wednesday morning were not returned.
On Friday morning, Ms. Coleman did call back, apologizing for the delay returning the call, citing the large number of calls and messages that were left for her. She referred us to Ayla Hay, their executive vice-president of communications.
We asked Ms. Hay what caused Ms. Coleman to decline the invitation to Gresham’s nationally-syndicated talk-radio show – if it was just a mistake or if it was part of a former policy not to appear on gun-related media outlets.
Here is her reply:
Yes, it was a mistake and unfortunately many are interpreting the radio interview decline as a disagreement with a key platform in the Constitution. Nothing could be further from the truth. She mistakenly provided our product co-branding policy as the basis for not granting the radio interview. This was an error which will be corrected with training and better articulated guidelines.
We have always supported the Constitution of the United States of America, including the Second Amendment. Our mission focus is on supporting our nation’s Wounded Warriors and providing the most beneficial programs, some of which include hunting and outdoor activities. We value the contributions we receive from fundraisers and donors, including the firearm and sporting industry and organizations. We apologize for any confusion that has occurred and hope you will continue to stand with us to support our Wounded Warriors and their families.
Wounded Warrior Project
4899 Belfort Road, Suite 300
Jacksonville, Florida 32256